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This first half of the Michaelmas Term has flown by. Corny, I know, but true. Possibly something to do with the wonderful autumn weather we ve been having. Our long-anticipated science festival has come and gone, to much acclaim and immense enjoyment. I am delighted at how well the science faculty and the marketing department have grabbed that brief and made such a success of it - well done to them! We've had a large number of prep and primary school pupils joining us to experience some exciting events; and I am pleased to say that, despite several explosions the laboratories are still pretty much intact, which is a blessing. Three excellent public lectures have rounded off each of the three days on a high note. This will, almost certainly, become a regular King's fixture, and maybe we can grow it further - The Taunton Science Festival? Why not?

Another highlight of the first half of term has been the sporting successes of our U14 girls (ie our year 9s, who have just joined the school). Two weeks ago they were runners up (to Millfield) in the county netball tournament, and go through to the regional round. This Sunday they won the county hockey tournament, beating Millfield along the way. That all augurs well for lots of future success. They're the sort of sporty, enthusiastic, feisty bunch who will be competitive at just about anything. In fact all our new boys and girls have made a great start, settled in well and are contributing well. Lots of our pupils look quite tired, though, so this break comes at exactly the right time.

A few weeks ago our Pringle Trophy team headed off to Woodbury Common and Lympstone for the annual competition between the 19 Royal Marines CCF sections from around the country. Eldest son was in the squad, and they had certainly put in the hours of training - up at 6am most mornings since the beginning of term. It was a pleasure to watch them on the endurance run on the Common (a pleasure because I didn't have to move a muscle - it looked pretty gruesome for them, though) and to watch the drill test down at the base in Lympstone. We won both of those sections, and the camouflage, but missed out narrowly on an overall win, coming second by just a few points. The boys were understandably disappointed, but it is nonetheless an extraordinary achievement, and I am immensely proud of how well King's has done in the Pringle Trophy over the past six or seven years. Congratulations to them and to the "mentors" Captains King and Belfield.

The annual pilgrimage to a golfing resort that is the HMC Conference took place last week. St Andrews - again. This time the trip had a particular interest for us because eldest son has put St Andrews down as one of his UCAS choices. So we saw the town and the university through the eyes of potential parents. And found it rather charming. Great tea shops. Seriously good book shops. Oh...and apparently there's a golf course or two. That must have been the lawn with the sandpits.

The theme of the conference - looking forward - was a worthy one. Of course our schools need to keep up to date and in touch with a rapidly changing world. But we should also recognise that much of what we have done for a very long time is still entirely valid and appropriate and equips our pupils with the attitudes and habits and skills that will allow them to thrive whatever the world throws at them. It is the soft skills of confidence, leadership, creativity, tolerance, cheerfulness and, especially, resilience which will serve them so well.

So, half term looms. For me it is going to be somewhat extended: I am off to spend a few days with my father in Cape Town, after he undergoes surgery, during the first week of the second half of term. Not a happy reason to travel, but still it'll be good to be back in Cape Town for a while. There will be whales in the bay, and hopefully flowers on the mountains. Before that there's a week in our Cornish cottage to look forward to and then a boys-only trip through France with an old school friend - from the Riviera to the Jura mountains, where he owns vineyards and an absinthe factory. Should be interesting. They make a very particular style of wine in the Jura, apparently much admired by Julius Caesar. I don't know what he made of the absinthe.

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